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Correction to This Article
The Metro article, about D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's prospects for reelection after a defeat in a Ward 4 Democratic straw poll, incorrectly described the role played by D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) during a forum held while voters cast their ballots. Bowser encouraged Fenty by assailing the record of D.C. Council chairman and mayoral challenger Vincent C. Gray (D) nearly every time Fenty, not Gray, answered a question.

Loss to Gray on home turf means nothing, Fenty camp says

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Campaign signs are abundant across the District as the mayoral race heats up. Undecided voter Dorothea Pinkney currently has signs for both Adrian Fenty and Vincent Orange in her front yard.

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By Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 6, 2010

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's green-and-white signs blanketed 16th Street NW, where traffic was slowed by dozens of volunteers and staff members waving to passersby and urging them to vote in the Ward 4 Democratic straw poll.

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They cheered and shouted like fans at a championship game, many of them arriving two hours before voting began Wednesday evening at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.

They drank Fenty water, waved Fenty towels, and wore Fenty wristbands and T-shirts. This was supposed to be Fenty Country, the ward the 39-year-old mayor represented as a D.C. Council member for half a dozen years.

They even had a theme song.

But by 10:30 p.m., Fenty supporters were hearing a different chorus: "Gray . . . Vincent Gray . . . Gray" rang out as the votes were counted aloud. Fenty's chief rival in the Democratic primary, council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, won 581 to 401. He was just shy of the 60 percent of needed for an official endorsement from the Ward 4 Democrats.

Team Fenty was shaken.

Fenty's losses in straw polls before sweeping every precinct in 2006 are evidence that such votes can be unreliable. But Wednesday's straw poll, combined with five others he has lost and the less-than-friendly reception he has received from some voters while knocking on doors in the past few months, are indicative of Fenty's reversal.

More negativity ahead?

A year ago, Fenty was widely thought to be unbeatable. But a little more than a month before the Sept. 14 primary, his campaign appears increasingly unable to turn around a deep-seated anger against him in some communities and to regain voters lost in the past year.

The mayor said Thursday that he felt let down by Ward 4, which includes Petworth, parts of Crestwood, Takoma and Chevy Chase. Four years ago, it gave him a record 69 percent of the vote.

"It was disappointing, not embarrassing. . . . We would have wanted to win, but you can't win every straw poll," he said after he cut the ribbon on a new Joe Cole Community Center in the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast. "I don't usually go in with any expectations. I would have wanted to win, and I can say I was disappointed."

Fenty has raised nearly $4.4 million. The money has paid for an army of canvassers, a TV ad blitz, a go-go music-themed radio drive that began Memorial Day weekend and campaign literature produced to highlight ward-by-ward "results."

Observers say the straw poll results -- which reflect the votes of die-hard Democrats who live in the ward -- could push Fenty to go negative in an effort to broaden the electorate beyond the 100,000 voters who cast ballots in 2006.


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